Shin Splints

Shin splints are one of the most common problems in active individuals, and can become quite debilitating. Pain along the front of the shin bone (tibia) can be severe enough that even walking can be uncomfortable.

To understand the cause of shin splints, you must first understand the anatomy of the leg. Around the leg bones, the tibia and fibula, are four separate groups of muscles-the anterior compartment, in front of the leg, the lateral compartment, to the outside of the fibula, and finally the deep and superficial posterior compartments. All muscle groups are held in place by a long, wide, thin sheet of tissue called deep fascia ("fasha"- marked red on the illustration). The fascia keeps the muscles in position, preventing them from being moved all around the limb. In the leg, the deep fascia has only one attachment - to the front of the tibia, or shin bone. The deep fascia is a dense, strong, fribrous tissue with no elastic properties; it can't stretch. It is when the muscles held in by the fascia become enlarged that a problem develops. Depending upon a number of factors, the muscles in either the anterior, lateral, or deep compartments can become enlarged. When the muscle(s) enlarge, or hypertrophy, likely the result of over exertion, they cause tension on the deep fascia. Considering the deep fascia is only attached to the front of the shin, the fascia begins to pull away from the tibia, causing considerable pain and inflammation.

So what sort of activities cause the muscles of the leg to enlarge? New activity such as recently taking up exercise such as running, lack of stretching exercises before activity, lack of adequate arch support in shoes, frequently walking barefoot or with poor quality shoes such as flip flops or sandals, trauma, and other factors can contribute to shin splints.

Treatment of shin splints involves a combination of things. Wrapping the legs in ace wraps or compression hose in effort to reduce swelling of the muscles will help, ice of the front of the shins, regular stretching exercises, good quality arch supports or orthotics, anti-inflammatory medication, avoidance of barefeet, flip flops, sandals, and slippers, discontinuing physical activities such as running and aerobics, massage, as well as physical therapy can help reduce the pain.

If you suffer from shin splints or other foot or leg pain, please give us a call!

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